Getting Fresh with Herbs

Follow these tips from Joel Toledo, owner of Green Door Nursery in Naples, to start your own DIY herb garden in the new year


One of the easiest ways to enhance flavor in lieu of salt and butter is with fresh herbs. Companies like Rise Gardens are growing in popularity thanks to lush offerings designed to blend seamlessly with your living space. To start a DIY herb garden, follow these tips from Joel Toledo, owner of Green Door Nursery in Naples.

Skip the seeds. Why spend time babying seeds when someone else can do the hard work for you? Small plants are easier to work with because they have hardened off and the roots are already established. Opt for the holy trinity of herbs: basil, rosemary, and thyme. “Those do well no matter where you put them,” says Toledo.

Source locally. Tempting as it may be to run into a big-box store, search instead for herbs from local sources, which are more likely to be acclimated to the regional climate because they didn’t start their life in a greenhouse.

Keep herbs within reach. Plant herbs on a windowsill or place a pot on the lanai for easy access. Out of sight, out of mind, tends to lead to wilting herbs. Most herbs are annual, meaning they naturally go to seeds in about eight months. Rosemary, on the other hand, can live for up to 10 years. 

Plant strategically. Whether or not you plant them in individual pots, herbs will showcase their own personalities and demands. Thyme and basil do well together and have similar watering needs. Rosemary prefers dryer soil. Either way, you’ll likely water these every three to four days. You’ll want to invest in terracotta pots with drainage instead of wood containers, as they may leech chemicals into the soil, says Toledo.

Choose this, not that. Cilantro is a tricky plant to grow at home because it needs to be harvested weekly, then it goes to seed, changes to coriander, and dies faster than you can say guacamole. Spearmint, on the other hand, is practically immortal and adds an unexpected twist in cooking. Variegated oregano is another good choice, since it looks as good as it tastes and can last for years.

Enrich your soil. Don’t think that DIY herb gardens are a set it and forget it endeavor. You’ll constantly need to enrich the soil with fertilizer such as monthly earthworm castings. Adding a teaspoon of coffee grounds every two months will acidify the soil and help with drainage.

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